Most areas of the Church are divided into stakes, which usually consist of five to twelve congregations called wards or branches. The term stake was used by the prophet Isaiah. He described the latter-day Church as a tent that would be secured by stakes (see Isaiah 33:20; 54:2).
A stake is led by a stake president, who is the presiding high priest within a stake and who holds priesthood keys needed for him to direct the work of the Church within the stake. He and two counselors form a stake presidency and together oversee the spiritual and temporal welfare of Church members across the stake. They minister to stake members with love and concern, helping them to become true followers of Jesus Christ.
As in the ancient Church, members of the Church today are organized into congregations. Large congregations (approximately 300 or more members) are called wards. Smaller congregations are called branches. Wards and branches are the basic congregational unit of the Church, wherein members worship together, partake of the sacrament (or communion), learn the gospel of Jesus Christ, and strengthen each other.
A ward is led by a bishop, who is the presiding high priest in a ward and who holds priesthood keys needed for him to direct the work of the Church within the ward. He and two counselors form a bishopric and work under the direction of the stake presidency to oversee the spiritual and temporal welfare of Church members in the ward. They minister to ward members with love and concern, helping them to become true followers of Jesus Christ.
The Lord in His infinite wisdom has designed His Church to operate with an unpaid lay ministry. That means we have been charged to watch over one another and to serve one another voluntarily and without financial compensation. We are to love one another as our Father in Heaven and the Lord Jesus Christ love us. Our callings and circumstances change from time to time, providing us with different and unique opportunities to serve and to grow. In addition to serving in the Church, stake presidents, bishops, and other stake and ward leaders have their own careers and families to look after.
While there is no stipulated period of service, it is common for a bishop to serve his congregation for about five years, at which time he returns to the body of the congregation or is assigned another responsibility elsewhere such as teaching a youth class, helping others find employment, or even directing a choir. The same principle applies to stake presidents, though it is common for them to serve for about ten years.